Gary Andersen

Don't ask me why Andersen is gone -- but OSU lost a good man

Don't ask me why Andersen is gone -- but OSU lost a good man

Why, Coach, why?

That's all I can say in the wake of the news that Gary Andersen is no longer the football coach at Oregon State. I don't know why. It makes no sense. Colleges don't change head coaches in the middle of the season -- any season -- and although the school's athletic director, Scott Barnes, insisted many times over that it was "a mutual decision." Really? Nobody was pushing from either side? Boosters played no part in this? I just don't see Andersen leaving his team in the middle of the season. He doesn't seem that sort of man.

This was a shocker. And, of course, so was the news that Andersen is walking away from more than $12 million owed him by the university.

This stuff doesn't compute and when all you get is "this is a mutual decision," you can't help but speculate. Be my guest.

But this I know: Andersen is a quality coach and quality man. I believe, given time, he was going to get it done in Corvallis -- at least as much as is humanly possible. Mike Riley spoiled a lot of Beaver fans who think winning is easy at Oregon State. It is not. I said it when Andersen was hired -- this is one tough job. You're in the rising shadow of the Ducks, you don't have the facilities that many other Pac-12 schools have and don't have a lot of money to throw at recruiting.

So don't ask me what happened in Corvallis. For right now, I just don't know. But what I do know is that Oregon State lost a good one Monday.

What to do at OSU, where the Beavers may not win again this season

What to do at OSU, where the Beavers may not win again this season

The first thing Oregon State must do after that 48-14 loss to Minnesota is probably the hardest thing -- stay the course. Stay together. Things are going to get worse before they get better. And the worst thing that could happen is for the team to split apart.

Things are obviously not going the way the Beavers thought they would and I would expect some players aren't as talented or reliable as the coaching staff thought they'd be. Coach Gary Andersen's mission the rest of the way will be to find players he can depend on -- the ones who won't quit on him. This thing could get real ugly during conference play and the main thing is to keep working. I still believe Andersen will get the job done at OSU -- but nobody ever said it was going to be easy (except the dolts who thought firing Mike Riley would immediately turn the Beavers into conference champions.)

The Beavers have to come together and keep working. Cliche? Of course. But truth. There's no other choice. The conference isn't going to allow them to call their season off or ask for a do-over.

But let me mention one other thing: People are calling out their defense and certainly, there are problems on that side of the ball. But rest assured, there are offensive problems, too.

In today's high-octane version of college football, it's impossible for defenses to hold up very long when the offense isn't moving the football. Oregon State got one first down in the second half Saturday, along with just 67 yards of total offense. For the game, the Beavers -- who thought they had a solid running game this season -- rushed for just 80 yards. That's terrible.

And when your defense is shaky, you cannot afford to have the offense grind to a halt. Their defense played well enough in the first half -- when the offense gave it a chance, The second half looked like a complete defensive surrender -- but I'd make the case that the offensive inefficiency led directly to it.

This is also a team making all sorts of mistakes -- fumbles, interceptions, blown blocking assignments and missed tackles. And fair-catching a punt at the three-yard line set the Beavers up for second-half trouble, too. The mental mistakes must stop.

Those things must be dealt with. The overall goal now is a simple one -- improve with each game.

Winning games is going to likely be a big problem the rest of the season. Losing can quickly become a disease that rots the core of a team.

The Beavers must not let this thing blow up.

Best team on the field Saturday in Corvallis? Portland State!

Best team on the field Saturday in Corvallis? Portland State!

The Oregon State Beavers needed a win in the worst way Saturday against FCS Portland State. And that's just about what they got -- a win in the worst way.

Let me first say, OSU's drive to take the lead that culminated in a touchdown with a little more than a minute remaining in the game was a big thing for the Beavers. They came through in a tough spot and took control, if momentarily, of the game.

But let me also say, the Beavers didn't beat the Vikings. The Vikings beat the Vikings. Portland State was the better team in Reser Stadium Saturday and I know that's a very painful thing for Beaver fans to understand. But you can pick just about any category on the final stat sheet and PSU had the edge. But even more than that, consider that PSU lost its starting quarterback in the fourth quarter and still marched for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:43 to go in the game. And, oh yes, the Vikings couldn't covert PAT kicks or a field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. But for a kicker, this game belonged to Portland State.

And one other very big thing -- Portland State failed on a fourth-and-goal in the first half after an incomplete pass in the end zone. There was pass interference on that play -- even the Pac-12 network announcers saw it that way -- and it wasn't called.

I expected the Vikings to give the Beavers a game but I certainly didn't expect them to dominate Oregon State. The Vikings rushed for 291 yards while holding OSU to 154 on the ground. And this was supposed to be a Beaver team with a serious ground attack. And Portland State is supposed to be a team that will finish eighth or ninth in the Big Sky Conference. I think the Viks are obviously much better than that, by the way.

But what are we to make of the Beavers?

Well, so far, not much. But it's way too early to give up on them. Gary Andersen is a good coach and I think his team is talented enough to make something of a turnaround. But I'm not sure it will be enough to avoid a disastrous won-lost record. If a Big Sky team can run on them, I'd expect every team in the Pac-12 will run them into the ground. Oregon State would probably be better off to get to a ball-control offense and keep its defense off the field as much as possible.

On the defensive side of the ball, think last year's Oregon team. It could be even worse than that, if possible.

The Beavers can rejoice all they want over that win over Portland State. But in reality, there wasn't much to celebrate.

 

The Beavers should have opened the season at home vs. Hicktown State

The Beavers should have opened the season at home vs. Hicktown State

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this but a few things have to be said after Oregon State's humiliating 58-27 defeat at Colorado State Saturday afternoon:

  • I thought the Beavers were past this sort of thing. In Gary Andersen's third season, I expected Oregon State to have reached a level of toughness that would have prohibited such a disastrous loss. Andersen himself called it "embarrassing."
  • The Beavers were outscored 34-7 in the second half but worse, they were manhandled -- pushed all over the field. That should not happen to a Pac-12 team playing a Mountain West team. Losing is one thing -- being bullied is quite another.
  • Andersen fell on his sword, as coaches so often do. "We can all call it what we want," he said. "Yeah, it was a close game at the half, turnovers, blah blah blah. … when you have a team do what they did to us … we couldn't answer the bell in the second half. I'm not saying it's anybody else's fault but mine. I'll put it right on me."
  • The Beavers got punched in the mouth and didn't respond. That's not good.
  • Oregon State comes home to play host to Portland State in its next game as the Vikings, who were solid in a 20-6 loss at BYU Saturday, continue their season-opening, million-dollar march to finance their program with games out of their weight class. But OSU better be careful -- the Vikings won't give up in the second half. They won't quit. And after watching both teams Saturday, I had to wonder if Portland State is the more physical -- and more disciplined -- of the two teams.
  • I cannot imagine a worse way for the Beavers to open the season. And I can't really understand why the game was scheduled in the first place. Season-openers are for home games against Hicktown State,  not teams on the rise playing inaugural games in new stadiums.
  • I suspect the Beavers will get it together this week. But I don't expect much of a season from them. The schedule now says a sub-.500 season and no bowl trip. Oh well.

 

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Last week on Talkin' Ball we were fortunate enough to have great interviews with Gary Andersen and Willie Taggart. Yes, on the same show.

They were both very forthcoming about their teams but there was no way we could learn answers to what, for me, are the most pressing questions about Oregon State and Oregon:

What will they look like? How will they, you know, actually play? And we may not really know that until the early season, non-conference games are out of the way.

In the case of the Ducks, it's a new coaching staff with a quarterback who performed well last season as a freshman. Justin Herbert, at times, looked like a pro last year. He has great promise. But how will he be used this season? Taggart has employed a lot of option in the past and will he run Herbert? It's always interesting when a new coaching staff comes in to see how players might be used differently or more effectively than they were by the previous regime.

The Ducks have their usual stable of great running backs and I'd assume, given their shortage of receivers, they'll be run heavy, at least early in the season. But who knows? Herbert can really sling it and those runners will set up some great play-action opportunities.

The same questions are even more relevant with the Beavers. Oregon State will be going with a quarterback, Jake Luton, who is by all accounts a pro-style, big-arm guy who is much different than what Andersen has had at OSU. Will the Beavers open it up more? I'm not sure, because they also have some outstanding running backs capable of controlling games on the ground.

How will these guys play? What will they look like? What will their style be? Will they be gamblers or play it safe? What will they become known for?

It's the most intriguing thing about the upcoming season at both schools.

Thomas Tyner a luxury for Oregon State's already strong running game

Thomas Tyner a luxury for Oregon State's already strong running game

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, making a comeback with Oregon State, is not yet the running back he was while with the Ducks in 2014. 

“He’s gained some weight but our weight room coaches have done a good job of getting him into shape,” OSU senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Days. 

Tyner is listed at 232 pounds on OSU's website, up 17 from the 215 he played at for the Ducks before his 2015 ended following preseason shoulder surgery.  

“Thomas is a great addition,” junior RB Ryan Nall said. “He’s got to be back into the flow of things. It’s kind of hard after being out of the game for two years and jumping back in.”

Tyner is not carrying blubber, according to Nall. The former Aloha High School star has simply bulked up beyond the ideal weight for him to take advantage of his speed that made him a 6A champion in the 100 meters while at Aloha. Nall said Tyner definitely appeared to be a bit rusty and slow during the team's first practice this earlier week.

“But he’s still got it," Nall said. "Once he chips that rust off and gets back into it, I think he’ll do good things for us.”

Tyner played at Oregon in 2013 and 2014 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery prior to the 2015 season. Rather than return to the Ducks in 2016, Tyner elected to retire. Now he's got the itch to return to the field. The way his medical retirement was written didn't allow for him to return to Oregon. Tyner had considered going to OSU out of high school so heading to the Beavers was a natural fit.  

"I definitely missed it," Tyner told reporters Tuesday in Corvallis. "I think it's just more excited than anything. I'm excited to get to play this season." 

Hungalu said he definitely saw flashes of the old Tyner during that first practice. 

“He did a good job running the ball,” Hungalu said. “He looked how he looked at Oregon, which is a good thing for us.”

It will be interesting to see how Tyner fits in. He had a productive career at UO but Nall is the man for the Beavers.

Tyner said he expects to learn a lot from Nall in terms of operating within the Beavers' offense. For Tyner, returning is more about erasing the prospects of always wondering what he could have done next on the football field than it is about being the guy. 

"Once you're about ready to be done with school and you have to figure out what you want to do with your life and I don't like living with 'what ifs," he said. "I felt like the 'what if' was football with me. I didn't want to go out how I did, medically retiring. I felt like I owed it to myself."

Oregon State's bowl dreams will become reality in Gary Andersen's third year

Oregon State's bowl dreams will become reality in Gary Andersen's third year

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - This time, fantasy will become bowl game reality for Oregon State. 

OSU players invited to take part in Pac-12 Media Days the past two seasons under coach Gary Andersen talked openly about their goals of reaching a bowl game.  It didn't happen. Not even close. Instead, the Beavers went 2-10 in 2015 (zero wins in the Pac-12) in Andersen's first season after replacing Mike Riley, and then 4-8 last season (3-6 Pac-12). 

To be fair, the players' beliefs were largely based on competitiveness, hope, bravado and perhaps some innocent delusion. This time around, however, the Beavers truly have good reason to believe that the program could realistically return to a bowl game for the first time since winning the Hawaii Bowl in 2014. 

Junior running back Ryan Nall and senior linebacker Manase Hungalu expressed such sentiments during today's media session. For the first time in three years, such talk didn't sound like a misguided pipe dream.  That's because for the first time during the Andersen era, the Beavers might actually have both the physicality and mental toughness to get it done. 

"This is a part of a process," Hungalu said. "It's just a process that we're building upon. Coach A is doing a great job with that. And we all understand that in order for what we want, we just have to continue to keep working and continue to keep playing and the results will show for itself."

Oregon State will likely never be a place where high-end recruits flock. Nor will it ever have the resources that nearby Oregon and Washington possess. But that doesn't mean the Beavers can't win. It just means that they have to be more calculating and deliberate to get it done. 

Unheralded recruits must be developed through patience and great coaching. Both physically and mentally. Last year, Andersen said here that the Beavers had to become more physical after getting pushed around by opponents in 2014. 

The Beavers were certainly tougher last season, improving by about a touchdown in both points scored and points allowed, moving from 19 points scored per game in 2015 with 37 allowed to 26 and 30. . That allowed the Beavers to play in more close games.

"At the end of the day we played physically with every team in this league," Andersen said. "That is very, very important."

That progression continued this summer with 50 players, Andersen said, who can now squat 500 pounds or more. 

However, mentally the Beavers simply weren't ready to win enough of those games to become bowl eligible. 

OSU lost three games by seven points or less: 30-23 at Minnesota, 19-14 vs. Utah and 35-31 vs. Washington State. Three other losses came by 14 or less, meaning OSU was at least in those contests. 

Losing close contests stuck with Nall all offseason. Especially the Washington State game in which the Beavers led 24-6 at halftime only to see WSU scored 22 points in the third quarter and ultimately win, 35-31.

"Our execution," Nall said. "It comes down to that. Whether it's on offense or defense, make sure we do our assignment instead of doing too much If we do the little things. If we execute. We will have a chance to win every single game."

Hungalu agrees. 

"I go back to being consistent and disciplined," he said. "Those games slipped away from us from little mistakes. Mistakes that shouldn't have happened."

So, while the team focused last year on becoming stronger and tougher, this offseason they worked as much on their mental approach. 

Andersen spent part of the offseason going through different situations and scenarios from last season that went south to try and pinpoint areas of concern. 

Andersen said mistakes and silly penalties cost the team and must be cleaned up this season. That endeavor will include some simplification to improve coaching and teaching and overall team-wide communication. 

"I think that naturally happens in three years," Andersen said. "But now it needs to be automatic."

Could a dramatic turnaround be in store for the Beavers?

Why not? Colorado did it. Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre won a total of 10 games during his first three seasons before going 10-4 (8-1). Colorado hadn't reached a bowl game since 2007 before taking the Pac-12 by surprise to win the South and reach the conference title game where the Buffaloes lose to Washington. 

Nall said the Beavers hope to duplicate Colorado's sudden success.

"I definitely see ourselves doing that," Nall said. "I have confidence in our team. I trust the process with Coach A and our staff. I believe we're going to have a successful year."

For the first time in years, such talk shouldn't be dismissed. 

Worried Ducks can't find a football coach better than the one they fired?

Worried Ducks can't find a football coach better than the one they fired?

You hear it all the time: Oregon has fired head football coach Mark Helfrich... OK, that's fine -- but who is out there for you to hire that's a better coach than he was?

I may have even said that myself. Certainly Rob Mullens, the athletic director at Oregon, has a tough job on his hands. A lot of people will tell you there's no one out there who would take the job who is as qualified as Helfrich was.

But you know, I had the same feeling when Mike Riley left Oregon State. I had no confidence the Beavers could land anybody of the same caliber as Riley. At the time, I read lists people were compiling that included young, untried assistant coaches and head coaches from the lower divisions who may or may not have been able to handle the rigors and responsibilities of coaching at the Pac-12 level.

But, of course, Gary Andersen showed up from Wisconsin and the Beavers have one of the best coaches in the conference and somebody who has embraced the university and the community. He seems the perfect fit.

So it seems a natural conclusion for me to say this: if the Beavers could do it, why can't the Ducks?

Beavers go old school in Civil War to beat the Ducks

Beavers go old school in Civil War to beat the Ducks

There were glory days in Corvallis so long ago, when the "Great Pumpkin," Dee Andros, was coaching Oregon State's football "Giant Killers."

Andros ran what they called a "full-house backfield" -- a throwback to the old basic T-formation, and he handed the ball to his fullback, time after time. Legends like Bill Enyart, Pete Pifer and Dave Schilling carried the ball as often as 50 times in a game as the physical Beavers pounded teams into submission.

But those hard-nosed fullbacks need to move over and make room for one more -- current Beaver Ryan Nall.

Nall, the sophomore out of Central Catholic, battered the Ducks for 155 yards and four touchdowns as the Beavers rushed for 310 yards.

Oregon State Coach Gary Andersen has made toughness a cornerstone of his program and in just his second season at OSU he saw evidence that it's paying off. The Beavers dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Ducks 13-0 to overcome a 10-point deficit.

And on the other side of the field, Oregon, a three-point favorite, saw its eight-game Civil War win streak come to an end on a day when it appeared it had the edge. When the Ducks jumped to a 24-14 lead in the third quarter it seemed they were on the way to a big win.

But they couldn't put the determined Beavers away.

Will that be it for Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich? I wouldn't be surprised, either way. This game exposed Oregon's soft defense and inconsistent offense, problems that have plagued the Ducks all season. With the game on the line, the underdog Beavers manhandled Oregon.

There will be plenty of time to talk about that. Right now, it's only fair to salute the Beavers for claiming a milestone win for Andersen in his effort to turn the program around.

Andros would be so proud.

OSU and Ryan Nall pound Oregon in Civil War, 34-24

OSU and Ryan Nall pound Oregon in Civil War, 34-24

Oregon State 34, Oregon 24

How Oregon State won: The Ducks (4-8, 2-7 Pac-12) once again couldn't get it done and allowed Oregon State (4-8, 3-6) to pound the ball at them all game Saturday in the 120th Civil War at Reser Stadium. 

OSU sophomore running back Ryan Nall carried the Beavers with 155 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries. Three touchdowns came after Oregon had built a 24-14 lead in the third quarter. 

The first half ended with a 14-14 tie. Oregon freshman quarterback Justin Herbert struggled in the half with 49 yards passing and several errant throws.

Both teams benefited from turnovers committed by the other team. OSU receiver Victor Bolden Jr. was stripped by Oregon cornerback Arrion Springs in the second quarter and the Ducks recovered at the Oregon 17. 

That led to an Oregon score to make the game 14-7, Ducks. 

Later in the half with the score at 14-14, UO had a chance to take the lead when running back Tony Brook-James fumbled giving OSU the ball at its six-yard line.

UO led 24-14 in the second half but couldn't hold on. When the rains came, UO's passing game virtually ended. Meanwhile the Beavers kep running the ball at will on the Ducks to win the game. 

What it all means: Oregon State has ended its eight-game losing streak to the Ducks. OSU last defeated Oregon in 2007. The UO loss certainly doesn't help coach Mark Helfrich's chances of not losing his job after the program's worst season since 1983. 

Key sequence: The Ducks jumped out to a 24-14 lead in the third quarter thanks to a 23-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to junior wide receiver Charles Nelson followed by a 46-yard field goal from kicker Aidan Schneider. 

Then the rains came, Oregon's passing game went south and OSU's running game began controlling the Ducks and the game clock. Nall scored on runs of 14, 6 and 2 for the Beavers, who scored 20 unanswered points to win the game. 

Play of the game: Oregon took a 14-7 lead with a little razzle dazzle early in the second quarter. A reverse went from Freeman to wide receiver Jalen Brown who stopped and threw a perfect strike to Darren Carrington II for a 33-yard touchdown pass. 

High Flying Ducks: Junior running back Royce Freeman went over 100 yards for the third consecutive game to finish with 106. He ended the season with 946 yards. This is the first time since 2006 that UO finishes a season without a 1,000-yard rusher. 

Herbert had an off day but did throw for 133 yards and a touchdown. A second TD was dropped by a wide open Johnny Mundt on a fourth down play with under a minute to go. 

Key Beavers:  Quarterback Marcus McMaryion had a solid game, passing for 101 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 81 yards.

Next up: At 4-8, neither team is bowl eligible. The Ducks coaches are schedule to hit the recruiting trail on Sunday, assuming they still have jobs.